Friday, May 25, 2018
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A vessel by another name does get sweeter

Ceremony marks rechristening of ship to S.S. Col. James M. Schoonmaker


Cody Ide, 12, of the Toledo Maritime Academy, holds the U.S. flag as Paul LaMarre III, executive director of the museum ship, addresses the crowd.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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With a single blow of a well-wrapped champagne bottle, Treecie Schoonmaker rechristened Toledo’s Great Lakes museum freighter to its original name Friday morning — that of her husband’s grandfather.

Several hundred watched from shore, while ship’s volunteers and workers from P&W Painting Contractors stood by on board as the former S.S. Willis B. Boyer once again became the S.S. Col. James M. Schoonmaker, 100 years almost to the minute from its original launch in Toledo.

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“It was just wonderful to turn around and see the volunteers and the painters who made all this happen. It was special for both of us,” said Mrs. Schoonmaker, whose mother-in-law, Gretchen Schoonmaker, was a child when she did the ship’s original christening honors a century before.

The wife of James M. Schoonmaker II said that when she was actually swinging the bottle Friday morning, her main concern was to make sure it hit hard enough, because there’s “a lot of superstition about the bottle not breaking.”

Mr. Schoonmaker said he was “absolutely amazed” by the freighter’s appearance, as the last time he had seen it was in 2007, when he visited Toledo and agreed to donate toward its restoration. At the time, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority had just agreed to take over responsibility for the Boyer, which had been on the verge of abandonment by the city of Toledo.

Now, he said, “She probably looks the same way she looked when she came down the ways. I was just so pleased.”

The rechristening was followed immediately by a cannon blast from the schooner Lynx, docked nearby in International Park for the freighter’s centennial celebration, and then by whistle signals, powered by a steam tractor, representing the calls of famous Great Lakes steamships.

The Schoonmaker is open through Sunday for public tours, after which it will be again closed until later this summer so that its cosmetic restoration can be finished.

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